Coastal Walkabout is an easy-to-use app designed to encourage people of all ages to get out into their local marine, estuarine and near shore environments and take note of the fauna living there. The app can be used to record sightings anywhere in the world.
“The app will automatically take note of the time and location before uploading that data to a website, where it can be freely accessed by anyone all over the world.”
Researchers from Murdoch University (Australia), Duke University (USA) and Marine Ventures Foundation came up with the concept after identifying challenges with data collection in the north-west of Western Australia.
The remote area is a popular location for researchers investigating marine animals in pristine environments, free from the impacts of development and urbanisation.
“Due to the vastness of the area, and the limited time and availability of researchers, accurate data sets are hard to achieve,” Associate Professor Bejder said.
“We realised that there are many other people who use these areas too, so we’re looking to harness this existing ‘people power’ to assist environmental research.”
Western Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Lyn Beazley has lent her support to the project.
“This tool gives everyone the chance to contribute to something they care about,” she said.
“By incorporating social media platforms, these observations can prompt community discussions about the environment and create a new generation of citizen scientists.”
It’s hoped the technology will be adapted and used by researchers, conservation groups, industry and communities all over the world.
“The concept can be applied to a variety of projects – from teaching children about the local environment, to logging sightings of rare animals, to plotting the progress of pests across an ecosystem,” Associate Professor Bejder said.